[Update 2.0]: Lesson learnt.
[Update]: Yes,people, I realize that this was last week's topic; I'm not writing it to get promoted on the front page, I'm writing it to get my $0.02 out there.
This article is written while considering Digital Distribution to mean the download of games to storage media on the gaming platform via the internet and completely seperate from Cloud computing, which many people seem to cluster it with. Also, this is my first blog on DTOID. If you don't like it, please offer suggestions; your opinions are relevant to me. If you like it, promote it; you are even more relevant to me. I don't do pictures etc. unless they're vital to the discussion.
The future is in The Cloud, not on our Hard Drives
Digital Distribution will be dead on any consoles that choose to utilize it for full retail sized games.This is not my opinion, it's the bitter cake you'll have to down if you want to game in the future. Digital Distribution is the red headed step child of game distribution methods. It has none of the merits of using the Cloud or physical copies and all of their deficiencies and some of it's own.
Proponents of DD give us the following advantages to DD gaming; games can be cheaper, will take up less room, can be carried around anywhere with you and use less power. Digital Distribution, however, will never take off, at least on dedicated gaming consoles, because of two reasons; A) retailers (please refer to PSP Go for details) and B) bandwidth ( I know what you're thinking, just hear me out).
Retailers make their money off game sales. Console sales are treated as engines for game sales and if they are now incapable of selling games for the expensive consoles, they don't make any moolah and thus get pissed off. Consoles give them extremely tiny profit margins.
Now, addressing bandwidth; in my country, web access kicks ass. At the moment, I am on a 10 Mbps internet connection with unlimited downloads and it costs me the equivalent of approximately US $25 per month. I can get 50 Mbps for $60. And, no, it's not just a high cap like 200 GB, I actually get totally unlimited access.
In the USA, you, a gamer and tech savvy person, might be able to get 12 Mbps connections for about double the price, but hey, you earn more, so it's okay. But guess what? A vast majority of US families are still on dial-up and 1 Mbps broadband with 2-10 GB bandwidth limitations due to the ultra-capitalistic American system which allows companies to drive out smaller, better companies and proceed to screw their customers because it's their way or the highway. Imagine them trying to download a standard game at a file size of about 9 GB. There is no way they can afford that and they would rather forgo downloadable gaming than pay extra for unlimited web access. Now, imagine the exponential growth of the size of games as time goes by; more voice acting and cutscenes, bigger environments, better textures and online multiplayer itself using all these resources constantly and you'll see that demand will outstrip bandwidth availability, the same way it does right now. Ultimately, DD gaming is impractical, as downloading the whole game is just damn wasteful. Even in the next 20 years, the bandwidth demand that would be created by DD would outstrip availability.
Steam can do DD, but only because they're on PC and the people who'll be buying $50 games that require high power computers are the one who have high speed and unlimited internet access, but the average Wii owner couldn't find their other hand in the dark when it comes to technology and Xbox 360 and PS3 owners are the ones who buy consoles because they're cheaper and easier than PCs. They're not the unlimited internet market.
Let me offer you the magic of cloud computing. The advantages of the cloud match and trump those of Digital Distribution; cheaper games, because you don't have manuals or middlemen, all your games can be played in one place and it will use less power the normal gaming while allowing you potentially infinite graphical performance capabilities and maybe even obsoleting hardware upgrades entirely. You don't even need to download the game; just buy it and play it.
"But L0LFAQ," you say "the cloud will require 4G or WiFi and that'll eat battery, you still won't appease retailers and and streaming games will require bandwidth too!"
Not so fast, shorty.You will no longer have a power intensive processor and GPU and RAM etc running. That's sort of the point of cloud computing. Your gaming device will only have what is necessary to stream the game and send back inputs. It's just a video feed. You can use the same space that a high powered handheld uses for bulky hardware required to run the game for discreet, low power components and massive batteries. Yes, wireless communications eat battery, but nowhere near as much as the quad core procs and GPUs required to put out "meh" graphics, like the Vita.
Secondly, hardware will be less powerful, considering it only has to stream video and send inputs. This means cheaper hardware, which means less pressure on retailers to sell at a small profit margin, so it'll have the same advantage that iDevices have.
Lastly, yes, it will demand bandwidth, except you wont be downloading a 9 GB game all at once. Hell, I had to live with 10 GB bandwidth in the USA once because I was using wireless internet and I never had a single problem in using Netflix all month round. Hint: I watch a crapload of movies via Netflix's streaming. At the current standard 640p, streaming and playing would be a chump chore. And it won't have NEARLY as much data as playing a multiplayer game online and constantly streaming game data. Also, considering we're talking of "the future", it's likely that in the next 20 years, the same time frame I'm using for DD, we'll still be using 720 or 1080 resolutions on our handhelds, maybe less, considering the pixels are already too small for the naked eye to discern. Bandwidth demand won't outstrip supply, not even close. Lag isn't even an issue anymore; OnLive revealed a new technology a few weeks ago that allows >1 ms latencies over distances long enough that if we traveled them vertically, we would qualify as being in space. It's just a matter of time.
The cloud will A) save us from the terrible punishment of having to get off our arse to buy a game and B) erase everything wrong with Digital Distribution. While DD is an interesting concept, it's a pretty crappyy one when you compare it to the cloud.